Five Who Led The Way In 2014

LA MESA – This was a year of new and renewal in La Mesa. There was the big political shakeup, of course, but profound change came in subtler, more incremental ways as well.

The streets of the symbolic heart of the city were being redesigned in a project that is continuing for months to come. A new winery crushed its first grapes and bottled its first vintage. Breweries soon followed and suddenly La Mesa joined greater San Diego’s homebrew craze.

And so it is probably understandable that this year’s nominees for La Mesan of the Year came from commerce, politics and government. They include:

Mike and Linda McWilliams, proprietors of the San Pasqual Winery. Not only did this couple produce La Mesa’s first commercial vintage of wine at their Center Street winery, they opened a tasting room at Seaport Village, bringing La Mesa’s first vintages to a wider audience. Even as their wines mature, this dynamic duo have built a signature operation that graces La Mesa Boulevard and presents La Mesa well to the wider world. 

Greg Humora, director of the City of La Mesa’s Public Works Department. Even while keeping up with the routine work of maintaining La Mesa’s nine square miles, Humora has nicely managed a Village streetscape project that has kept him in the crosshairs of public scrutiny. It is not easy doing surgery on a city’s beating heart, but Humora has planned, communicated and executed this sensitive project with grace and style. When night noise disturbed too many, the team redrew its plans and schedules. When the impact on commerce became clear, Humora’s gang re-planned again to protect both Oktoberfest and the crucial holiday commerce season. When the City Council injected free-parking into the mix, the team adjusted yet again. This project isn't over yet, but so far, being on-time, on-budget and responsive to citizen concerns is worthy of praise.

Former Mayor Art Madrid and Former City Councilman Ernie Ewin. These two elected officials may have frequently been political opponents, but as they each exited office this year, it was clear history would credit both with having had strong hands in shaping what virtually all agree is a well-managed, very livable small town – not an easy achievement located amid a growing metropolis that threatens to encroach and invade from all sides. Great public servants are judged not only by what they do in office, but, over time, by the long-term impact of their leadership. For both Madrid and Ewin, it can already be said they have left a vibrant, professional and politically mature tradition in their wakes.

The Rev. Kaji Douša and her congregation at the United Church of Christ of La Mesa. As 2014 began, America – and the San Diego region – found itself amid a border crisis that did not bring out the best in all involved. With busloads of children literally being chased out of southwestern towns by angry mobs, the good people of this United Church of Christ congregation took another approach. Taking to heart some of the teachings of their namesake, the members held seminars and hosted speakers to help their own membership work through this difficult issue. Throughout the year, church members and their pastor considered the need to give sanctuary to those truly threatened by violence if returned to countries – many of them plagued by instability fueled by American drug money. As 2014 neared its end, with the border crisis easing, it became clear that the Jewel of the Hills could be proud of the brave and very public voice of reason this congregation had expressed in La Mesa.

Michelle Kveen, co-owner and general manager of Bo-Beau Kitchen + Garden. Credit Kveen and her Cohn Restaurant team with solving the mystery of what it takes to have a successful restaurant at the key corner of La Mesa Boulevard and Allison Avenue. With a full year under its belt, Bo-Beau Kitchen + Garden has become a key economic driver of the Village’s revivification. Reports of Kensington and Hillcrest residents traveling to La Mesa to dine have upset long-held beliefs that one had to travel west for good food in this county. It turns out there was no real secret to success, just good food, well-priced and served by engaged and attentive professionals. Kveen's touch with both customer and staff may be the real secret.

La Mesan of the Year nominees are chosen by La Mesa Today editors in consultation with select civic leaders. The final selection from among the nominees will be published on Jan. 1.

Previous honorees include:

Mark Arapostathis and Ron and Mary Alice Brady -- 2013

Christina Callaway and Mitchell Miller - 2012

Lynn McRea -- 2011

Art Madrid -- 2010

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Tags: Art Madrid, Christina Callaway, Church of Christ La Mesa, College Preparatory Middle School, Ernie Ewin, Greg Humora, Kaji Dousa, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, La Mesan of the Year, More…Linda and Mike McWilliams, Lynn McRea, Mark Arapostathis, Michelle Kveen, Mitchell Miller

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Comment by chris shea on December 28, 2014 at 6:00pm
I don't think Greg has anything to do with Christmas in the Village. However I woukd like to share comments I had at my store during the celebration. I'll do it tomorrow. I will hate sounding like one of those "Why, in the old days..." types, but I do think there is merit in reflecting on the successful days gone by.
Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on December 24, 2014 at 1:22pm

An almost complete list.  It would have been complete with the addition of Councilman Bill Baber.  I think he's done as much for the City as anyone else.  He saved the La Mesa Spring Valley School District millions when he was on their Board.  He wrote Prop K, which garnered more votes in La Mesa than any candidate or proposition on the ballot.  That's just a start.  He has his critics, but you cannot argue the achievements.  

Comment by steve sund on December 24, 2014 at 12:53pm
Very good choices Chris. I'd say that they all are worthy of the title!
Comment by Robert A Throckmorton on December 24, 2014 at 12:16pm
Greg's efforts are recognizable. One thing I'd like to see is a better organized Christmas in the Village. This event has slipped far away from the way it used to be.
Overall, Greg has done a great job!

Good job Mike and Linda McWilliams on getting tagg winery going!
Comment by chris shea on December 24, 2014 at 11:49am

Nice list of people!  Common among them is their good hearts and talent.  This will be a tough choice for you...

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